Archive | January, 2016

Courtin’ Disaster with Tumbler Roulette

30 Jan

Our family is playing a dangerous game of Tumbler Roulette.

It’s a game borne of stubborn pride that began a little over a year ago when we first purchased those colorful plastic chalices at a discount store.

So pretty, we said. So tall. So spacious. So perfect. What’s not to like?

So very not dishwasher safe, that’s what. We learned after the first wash, when some delicate hair-line shoots appeared at the base of each cup.

Now, any normal family would just hand wash the no-longer-perfect vessels at the first sign of fissure. But did we switch to hand washing to preserve said drinkware? We did not. This might be my fault. Although my brain has fully processed and accepted the prescribed procedure for hand-washing dishes, I’m not exactly, shall we say, enamored with the task. I’d rather do most anything else.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that, were my dishwasher to blow a gasket an hour before guests arrived for a swanky black-tie gala, I’d swap out the good china for paper plates in an instant. You can really learn something about folks by watching them try to stab at carrots with plastic cutlery, know what I mean?

So naturally, we continued to use these tumblers daily, dumping them thoughtlessly into the dishwasher, which, as dishwashers are wont to do, would steam-heat those suckers at about 130 degrees.

Every day.

Cracked Tumbler

Beautiful, horrible, fascinating

With each wash, the intricate lines deepen and spread like a Jack Frost original across the plastic canvass. Any day now, either a slow leak will seep onto our coffee table and coat it with a sticky grape juice veneer, or, amid a sudden shattering explosion, one of us is going to wind up with a lap full of iced tea.


Yet we persist.

Why do we do this, when disaster is utterly avoidable? When it happens, and it will happen, the mess is going to be epic. These are 32-ounce containers.

I think part of the reason we do this is because each of us believes, deep down, that one of the other two is going to get it. From an entertainment perspective, for the two observers, D-Day has the potential to be highly amusing. Assuming, of course, we’re out of the soaking radius. And assuming we’re out the soak-ee’s rage range.

When it happens, I promise to post a damage report.

But let’s switch tracks now, shall we?

When you think of it, we’re all playing a similar game, only with life. Sadly, in this case the stakes are a bit higher. What kind of Tumbler Roulette are YOU playing? Is your Last Will and Testament so out of date it lists the oldest of your four children as your only dependent? Are you putting off that doctor’s visit about the lump on your leg because you’re afraid to get bad news? Charging just one more item to that credit card?


Why do we gamble so flippantly when disaster is completely avoidable? Why are we so surprised when the tumbler shatters? Some of us even go so far as to get angry at God when the tumbler shatters. Plastic wasn’t in his original design scheme, don’t forget.

However, he is holding out a tumbler of sorts that he wants very much for you to deal with. What do you suppose it might be? And, now that you’ve been reminded, what are you going to do about it?

Don’t delay, there may not be much time before it shatters.


Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. –Proverbs 6:6-8


It’s Just a Little Snow, but it’s a Good Reason to Mix Myself a Milktoast Mai Tai

22 Jan

Happy Snow Day, East Coast!

I had such a good response from my last Totally Made Up Interview that I decided today would be the perfect day to conduct another one, primarily because I wanted to blog about the weather but I lack sufficient knowledge of such matters (except that my RI family is laughing at us and our headless-chicken antics right now).

So today we’re talking with Mr. I.C. Flakes, renowned—in my mind anyway—expert on winter storms and winter storm preparedness. We were supposed to talk last night so he could tell everyone that there’s no need to panic, but he got caught in that 3-hour traffic jam when that lil’ ol flurry blew through.

However, he’s here now, so we’ll start by talking about storm preparations…

Q: Mr. Flakes, here in these pre-storm moments, do you have any advice for our readers?

A: Of course. Settle in, it’s going to be a long one. Find your flashlights. Look under the beds, for Pete’s sake, they’re in that house somewhere. And stay off the roads.

Q: Good advice, for sure, thank you. I can’t find my flashlight, so I’ll buy one as soon as we’re done here, when I pop out for some bread and milk, you know, because Topper said. It IS a ten-loaf storm, don’t you know?

Storm Food

Okay, Topper, I’m ready! (Callin’ this my milktoast Mai Tai)

A: Out of the question. Stay off the roads, I say. Anything you might have to do is something you should have done yesterday. The shelves are bare now and there’s nothing left to buy. Besides, you don’t even drink milk, and the last time I saw you eat bread was at a Christmas party in 2014 when the host offered it to you, beaming because she’d made it herself. If I recall, you only nibbled until she turned her back and then tucked it under the other slices on the plate.

Q: I didn’t know you were watching. Either way, Topper said, so I kinda have to. It’s not even snowing yet; I think I’ll at least try.

A: You’re nuts, all of you. Nobody should be on the roads today except first responders, snow plows, grocery store employees, and wine distributers.

Q: Grocery store employees?

A: Someone has to restock the wine. When this thing blows over, there’s going to be a mad rush.

Q: Well, I have to go out anyway. I need boots, and a shovel, and perhaps a wood stove.

A: Did you not know winter was coming?

Q: Wait, is that an answer or a question?

A: …

Q: At any rate, how about during the storm. Do you have any advice for what to do during that time?

A: Well, I suggest you front-load your electronically necessary tasks. When the power goes out, most of your efforts will be directed toward eating everything in the fridge before it goes bad.

Q: When the power goes out? Is it that likely?

A: Are you from these parts? The power goes out when an overweight bird perches on the wire; of course it’s going out. That’s why you need to find your flashlights now, before dark.

Q: Okay, I hear you. Heading downstairs now to search. Pulling out blankets, getting firewood in. Charging the phone. Making a place for the dog to sleep. …I think I understand now. Don’t panic, but prepare as best I can now while all is calm.

A: I think you’ve got it. My work here is done.

Q: Um, actually, there’s one more incredibly pressing issue, considering the possibility of no power this weekend. Do you have any thoughts on how we can see the Broncos play New England Sunday if the outage continues?

A: I’m one step ahead of you there. There’s no way I’m missing that. As soon as I hang up I’m taking off for the airport. I’ll be in a little hotel outside of Phoenix by sunset to wait out the storm in front of the television.

Q: Wait, are you driving?

A: I said it’s important for YOU to stay off the roads. Improves my chances of making my flight. So…guess I gotta run.

And there you have it. Mr. Flakes is long-gone now, so I cannot get him back, even if you have questions. I’m watching the first snowflakes  drifting down outside my window with both an eagerness and child-like wonder. And yet, I do have one two last requests, even for those of you watching us from around the internet world. Whether there’s snow or not where you are this weekend, check on your neighbors. and please say a prayer tonight for the large homeless population out here this winter, that they might find shelter this weekend in a safe, warm place.

Stay cozy, stay safe, and I’ll see you after we dig out!


“Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” —Psalm 55:6-8

Chocolate Muscles and Frozen Peas: Love is Complicated

13 Jan

Thirty-two years ago, on a Friday the 13th, something wonderful happened when I agreed to drive over to the Justice of the Peace in South Kingstown, RI, with Jerry Fitzsimmons. How could I resist, considering his oh-so-captivating suggestion:

“Do you wanna?”

Why, yes, I did.

Not that it was a rash decision. We’d been engaged for a couple of years, but our plans for a traditional wedding had been repeatedly thwarted by military orders and a life-altering car accident. I wonder sometimes if we’d have gone through with the ceremony if someone had told us the date. That I wore black, the only dress I’d packed for our trip to my parents’ home, only added to the surreal situation, as did the attire of our witnesses, who stood at the opposite ends of decorum’s spectrum – one of my brothers looking spiffy in his Marine Corps dress blues, and the other, a carpenter just off a roofing job, slumped over the justice’s podium wearing dirty, ripped jeans and smelling as if he took his manual labor seriously.

Nevertheless, we took the plunge together and headed off into the world of…well, something a lot less romantic than the phrase “wedded bliss” should be allowed to connote.

In fact, our first years were more like weeded bliss. We each had to compromise more than we might have wanted to, and our compromises were usually less a result of gallantry than argument-induced concessions. He’s a practical, hard-working, methodical, technically proficient detail man and I’m a somewhat flighty, spontaneous, irresponsible, artistic dreamer.

Somehow we survived. We made it through the adjustment years, the parenting young children years, the “what if I missed something better out there” years, the “our children are screwed up and it’s all your fault” years, and even the (still ongoing, but let’s call it a phase) years of, “if she rips open one more bag of frozen peas like that I’m going to give her a frozen peas experience she’s not likely to forget.”

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I had no idea what love is when we married. In fact, if we had relied on love as we defined it in our early years to get us through, we’d never have made it. I formed my idea of love by reading silly romance novels in my 20s, and I think he formed his by watching shoot-‘em-up action movies. Love is not summed up that easily. Were it so, I could have stopped looking when I read, “Her heartbeat quickened and her pulse raced until she felt the crimson heat flush clear up to her cheek bones.” And he would be striving to become the hero in the final scene of a battle saga: “He hoisted the BGM-71 TOW missile launcher effortlessly onto his shoulder, grunting in her direction, ‘C’mere,’ and she followed dutifully, staring wide-eyed at his bulging muscles as if they were made of priceless chocolate.”

Nowadays, our action scene is a little less breath-taking, as in, “He’d just settled down with a nice cold beer in front of the TV to watch ‘Braveheart’ yet again, and she, in those dratted flannel pajamas, had just pulled out the nighttime sleep-aid-enhanced pain medicine and was heading upstairs to find her book, when they turned to each other and said in unison… ‘I thought YOU were picking Charles up from youth group!”

It’s the scene afterward that speaks volumes about love.

We finally got our church wedding on our 25th anniversary, and it was a special moment that solidified, but didn’t change what we have. Our relationship still isn’t perfect. Most likely, I will always tear little gnaw-holes in the frozen peas bag, holes just big enough for eight or nine peas to escape at a time, and he will always tease the cat just as it curls up to snooze on my lap, forcing me to give him that look. I will always cry when I’m tired, and he will spend the rest of his life trying to figure out whether to try to hold me or let me cry it out. (What? Help him figure it out? Are you nuts? Where’s the fun in that?)


A glimpse of the younger, bolder, tougher, but not-so-wise years.

You see, what makes our relationship work is that we’ve become as close as two friends can be without some strange and awkward surgical procedure, and we’ve learned so much about each other that we can’t imagine being with anyone else. We see each other as a gift from God and value that gift as more precious than gold. Who else but he would know I’d get more joy out of the pair of purple “porcupine” socks I found in my stocking this Christmas than any amount of sparkling jewelry? And my joy comes from knowing that, not only does he “get” me, but if I said, even once, that I wanted the sparkling jewelry, he would have moved heaven and earth to get me some.

Because love is not about things, or feelings, or what sort of wedding ceremony binds a couple, or about always being right, or ever being right, for that matter. After 32 years I’m beginning to understand, love is about striving for second place. If I put him first, and he puts me first, well now, we just might make it another 32 years.

Besides, I’ve improved our chances by replacing his copy of “Braveheart” with “Pride and Prejudice.” Next time I cry, he can use that to figure me out…

I love you Jerry. You will always be my hero.


“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”  – 1 John 4:12

Chaining the Free Spirit: New Year’s Writing Resolutions

10 Jan

This, my first blog of the new year, breaks all the resolutions it contains. I’m going to run it anyway, because I find that particularly funny.

I’m not keen on making resolutions, but it became quite apparent toward the end of last year that my “take-work-as-it-comes-and-hope-for-the-best” time-management style might not be the most effective.  At one point, I was juggling eight projects simultaneously. Not only did the quality of my work suffer, but I noticed I was writing and editing in my sleep, or at least, when I should have been sleeping and not worrying about deadlines.

So, let’s jump right in, shall we?

One: This year there will be no procrastinating. I know, I know, most people establish their resolutions around the first of the year and not the 10th, but I had some residual 2015 issues to resolve first. And then I had this sleepless week, and then the eye thing, and…Anyway, I mean it. A few of my blogs might contain some pretty odd ramblings and a shopping list or two, but I’m serious about writing regularly, particularly when it comes to blogging, which brings me to resolution number…

Two: I will blog weekly in 2016. Blogging gives me joy, and has become relegated to an “expendable” corner of my life. I’ve noticed that, in much the same way a busy mom puts her own needs last, I tend to put personal goals aside to satisfy business commitments. This is emotionally unacceptable. If I’m going to grow as a writer, I gotta wax poetic on a regular basis or all those internal giggles that seem to multiply in my brain when I observe life are going to combust and I’ll wind up as cynical as Maxine, the greeting card lady. While that could make for some more interesting blog entries, I prefer something a little less erratic.

Three: Despite my serious distaste for administrative tasks, in 2016, I will keep to a schedule. This one is going to hurt, as I’m not only a free-spirited, ADD, fly-by-the-mood-of-the-muse writer, I also tend to see planning as the process of using valuable work time to write about what I’m going to do instead of actually doing it. However, I think the only way the blog will have a fighting chance of not getting pushed off the schedule is if I have a schedule to begin with. This will also prevent me from taking on too much work (I hope) and

Four: So, I will GENERALLY schedule blog writing for Saturday mornings (and yes, I know it’s Sunday evening. I never blog on Sunday—all the more reason to put this on the blogosphere today—see first sentence). However, I cannot totally commit to a particular day of the week, as not only do I occasionally enjoy a weekend off with my family, but the calendar often dictates my blog topics. For example, two specific non-Saturdays I’m looking forward to writing about this year are Lost Sock Memorial Day (May 9), and Lazy Day (August 10). The first sounds like fun to write about. The second, well, we’ll see how I feel…

…Besides, the second week in October is National Pet Peeve Week. Just imagine where that can take us! No, I cannot box myself into one day. Life should still contain a modicum of spontaneity. Speaking of spontaneity brings me to…

Five: This will be a year of sitting still, and getting up. First, I must train myself that even when I’m not in the mood, I should write. Writing begets writing. Day-dreaming begets sleeping. I sometimes put off writing because all the stars aren’t correctly aligned, or the caffeine hasn’t taken effect, or I’m not sure the words will come. It usually ends with a nap on the couch. This is silly, because I’ve never been unable to write when I actually sit down and start.

However, for the sake of my health, I also have to move. I’ve noticed that sometimes when I am in the mood to write, I work straight through meals and dentist appointments without ever looking up. So, I will schedule (yes, you read that right) time to get up and send the blood flowing back into my limbs. Also, with a little help from the dog next door, I’m scheduling regular walks around the block.

So that’s it for resolutions, essentially. The rest of my plans for the year are more like goals than resolutions:

In 2016, Joe and I would like to get “Caged Sparrow” into the prisons, where it is sure to make a positive impact (word chosen specifically for Christina) on inmates staring at potentially life-changing crossroads. The book is selling quite well for a self-published endeavor, and it’s getting great reviews on Amazon, but we’re waiting expectantly for it to become more than just a good story. It’s meant to encourage and inspire.

I’m also working on completing two books this year. The first is for a client, whom you’ll meet soon. It’s a fantastic story about faith, trust, and hope. If all goes according to plan, it will be completed in February (look for a blog announcement the first Saturday of the month). The second is a personal project that I plan to bring to the May writers’ conference in Asheville, NC to see if it has any market potential. If it’s successful, you’ll be able to hear me shout my joy from the rooftops. If not, I’ll just try somewhere else and blog about persistence.


Empty Pages of Possibility

There’s something sweet about the clean slate of a new year. The past is behind us and the future stretches before us like unused typewriter ribbon. (There now, I just lost half of you.) I’m excited and curious about the words that will fly across my keyboard this year, quite possibly even faster than I just jumped through 200 years of writing media. But one thing I know is that, with friends like you, I’ll be blessed for the experience because we’ll be making the journey together. Because without you I’d just be talking to myself.

Praying you and your families will be blessed this year as well.

Happy New Year, happy writing, and happy reading!


“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40).